Category Archives: Five Stars

Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals

Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals by [O'Malley, Timi]

Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals, by Timi O’Malley, is a fascinating journey through the author’s life. O’Malley brings her readers to her table where she fulfills their need to be nourished in more ways than one, and it is at that table where the author invites her readers into more diverse chapters of her life.

Connecting her love of culinary traditions with her belief that we are all connected through our purest and most basic needs, O’Malley makes it very easy to understand just how easy it is to achieve true happiness. Consuming Love sends a message of love and togetherness, but more importantly, it teaches us how we can find genuine satisfaction and fulfillment by just noticing the world around us, and by being consciously present within it. O’Malley masterfully intertwines her love of food with her experience to paint a wonderfully meaningful picture for her readers.

The people you will meet along O’Malley’s journey are incredible, but it is in O’Malley’s reaction to the personalities around her that seem even more so. She has deep respect for the people that have had an impact on her life, whether those people created positive experiences or negative. In fact, her reaction to everyone that she has shared meals with have one thing in common, and that commonality is a large part of what makes Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals so special. Everyone, it would seem, is a teacher, and over a plate of delicious cuisine is one of the best ways to be truly present with the people who pass through our lives.

For anyone who wonders about the nature of happiness and why some people are better at maintaining it than others, this book is a must read. Those interested in hearing of adventures across the country and into the far reaches of the globe would also be interested in this book. And for anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of the value of presence in our lives, Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals might just be the book you’ve been looking for. Timi O’Malley certainly deserves the full five stars for her offering to the table of life.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07L3Q91CG

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The Contest and Other Stories

The Contest and Other Stories by [DiBuduo, Joe, Robinson, Kate]

The Contest and Other Stories by Joe Dibuduo and Kate Robinson is an amazing book about finding yourself and doing what you love. The book has some amazing and inspiring stories such as one that introduces a man named Peter. A banker who longs to have a career in art and the approval of his uptight father. He may get the chance with an untimely death in the family that will send him on a journey of self-discovery. There are also stories that tie into the main story. One, in particular, is about Vincent van Gough and the struggles he had to overcome to become the artist we know today. This book examines the struggles, trials, and accomplishments we all face and delivers a positive message that no matter what life throws at you, you have to make yourself happy. Don’t let what someone else thinks or feels about you matter because at the end of the day it’s about what you think or feel about yourself.

The Contest and Other Stories written by Joe Dibuduo and Kate Robinson is very inspirational and heartwarming. I love how the writers captured the struggles that each individual character went through, the longing for approval and acceptance of others and their fears of the unknown. I felt that the layout of the book could have a better structure. One moment I was reading one story and then the book jumps into another. Without some orientation, this can be a little jarring. One example of this is in The Contest; there is a painting of Van Gogh that was used in the contest and then immediately we go into a story about Van Gogh.

After each chapter the authors leave you with a cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading. Even though this book jumps back and forth between stories, it’s a minor quibble, and I find this book worthwhile in all aspects. I would recommend this book to anyone that feels like they aren’t good enough or feel like they need some encouraging words. This is an engaging and entertaining read that will leave you with a positive feeling.

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B07HY21GKS

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Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – Audiobook


Tiny Tim is all grown up, and everything he loves and holds dear has been ripped from him. Upon the death of his dear friend, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim begins to question each of his beliefs and the very faith that had been instilled in his family with the love of Scrooge himself years ago. Tim, now an adult, is faced with the loss of another of his dear loves, Becky. As fate would have it, Becky is simultaneously suffering through the most trying time of her young life on the streets with her young son and no place to lay their heads. Just as fate intervened fourteen years ago in the form of Ebenezer Scrooge, fate lays its hand on upon Tim once more.

Norman Whaler has crafted a beautiful tale of faith, hope, and love in his sequel to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – Audiobook details the events surrounding and immediately following the death of an aged Ebenezer Scrooge. Tim Cratchit, once the young crippled boy benefiting from Scrooge’s change of heart in A Christmas Carol, is impacted most of all by Scrooge’s death.

From beginning to end, Whaler’s sequel to the beloved classic pays homage to the original plot and the beautiful transformation made by its key character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Though Tiny Tim, now all grown up, is the title character, he also exhibits a change of heart similar to that of Scrooge. Tim fights a battle within himself as he struggles to regain his faith. Whaler does a phenomenal job of adhering to the feel of the original book with his references to Scrooge’s character transformation. The reader watches as Tim fights a similar battle and, ultimately, wins with Scrooge’s help.

As a fan of the original tale of Scrooge and the Cratchits, I could not help but fall in love with the parallel story line and the magic of three as it again reared its head in Tim’s life. The sound quality and voice over is exceptional in this audiobook and delivers this lovely story in a clear and crisp manner. Scrooge’s reappearance from the afterlife is expected but quite fitting. Whaler has done Dickens proud with this quick read rich with character development and steeped with faith.

Duration: 1 hour 54 minutes | ASIN: B01NAJJLXP

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A New Beginning

A New Beginning: A Jenny Dewberry Series by [Olsen, J.J.]

In the pages of A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series), J.J. Olson weaves together a world of whimsy, magic, and the otherwise normal life of a 13-year-old girl. The story opens to Jenny Dewberry attending her grandmother, Alinore Grayson’s bedside. It is then that she receives the first clue that she may not be a normal 13-year-old girl. Alinore gives Jenny a key that opens a trunk of secrets and unlocks a part of herself that she never knew existed. Jenny discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and she’s given a mission to restore white magic to the world.

This book is perfect for the young and old, alike but I think that middle-schoolers and up will enjoy this read the most. The story is vivid and descriptive and the writing is simple without being boring. Olson paints a world that is easily imagined. The book delves into some fairly complex situations, spells, and worlds a reader could easily get lost in, but I didn’t have a problem as everything is explained well.

I enjoyed the idea of the journals that Alinore left for Jenny to read. We get to know Alinore without her being a present character in the story through her first person narratives. We also get to know Alinore through her colorful sister, Agatha and her adventurous spirit. Alinore was a mastermind. She leaves Jenny everything she needs to send Jenny on a magical scavenger hunt of sorts.

The characters are well developed and enough background information is given to fill in gaps. This is a story that stands alone while at the same time leaving the reader begging for more. It is part of a series, but is easily digestible as a singular story.

I like the good vs. evil aspect of the story. Madiva and her minions represent the dark side, while fresh-faced Jenny is the bright spot. She is hope. That being said, I like the redemption of Kurthanyo Eastman that we get to witness. At first, I assumed Kurthanyo leaned more toward the domineering, evil side. By the end, we are given another piece of the story that lets Kurthanyo explains some of his actions when he was young. We’ve all done something we regretted in a fit of rage. Kurthanyo gives us a reminder that those fits are often not easily undone.

I’m giving A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series) by J.J. Olson 5 out of 5 stars. Apart from a few minor errors, the book is very well-written. The characters are relatable. It seems like it’s Jenny against the world, and at times she is. Readers will enjoy the protagonist as an underdog. I’d love to read more by this author, and particularly more in this specific series. I need to know what happens next!

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07934BMGL

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The Labyrinthine Journey

The Labyrinthine Journey (Servant of the Gods Book 2) by [Cavallaro, Luciana]

Evan is a normal twenty-first century man who works as an architect. However, to interrupt his daily routine, none other than Zeus himself, has decided to transport Evan to the sixth century BCE. Evan now travels across ancient Greece with his companions, including Atlanteans, a high priestess, and his friend, Dexion, who has the power to see into the future. All of this is for a mighty cause, Evan has been chosen by Zeus to unite two powerful relics in order to save the Gods from extinction.

Stuck in the sixth century BCE Evan longs to return home. Given his precarious position between times, the juxtaposition of his wants against his reality serves to highlight the stark differences between the comfort of home that Evan is used to and what he is currently facing. For instance, walking across a sandy plain in sandals verses the want for a motorbike to make short work of the distance. His modern life’s influence over his worldview often leaves him homesick, but he must complete his mission. On the other hand, his life back home gives him ways to solve the problems he faces in the sixth century BCE, taking ideas from the pop-culture of his own time and bringing them into the past to aid his quest. This fusion of time periods makes for some brilliant innovations and cross-overs between what we as the reader understand to be ancient Greece, and the modern day.

The Labyrinthine Journey is book two in Luciana Cavallaro’s Servant of the Gods series and it follows on fluently with the events of the previous book with references here and there to book one. Something striking about the series is the relationship between mortals and Gods. With whole chapters dedicated to the musings of God’s and their society it gives the reader an insight into their intentions. Furthermore, the book proposes an alternative viewpoint on the beginnings of Christendom. The Greek Gods fear that they will lose their dominance in light of a God-sent child being born that will potentially lead to the widespread belief in a single God instead of the current pantheon.

This retelling of the birth of Christ from the God’s perspective explains why Zeus wants the relics united – to maintain his and the other Gods’ significance. However, there are some Gods trying to interfere with the mission and stop Evan’s and his companions’ journey. Evan searches ancient Greece, already in possession of the first relic, for the second to unite the two. The perilous journey over a treacherous landscape naturally reminds one of the epics of Homer.

The Labyrinthine Journey was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I give it five out of five for its sophisticated and inventive retelling of the well-known and widespread story of Christ and its ability to connect it to the overarching quest narrative seamlessly. Luciana Cavallaro’s prose fits the story perfectly, making the journey truly epic. Furthermore, the fusion of God’s, monsters, ancient philosophers, magical ancient relics and even time travel, leads to unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel.

Pages: 311 | ASIN: B075QGZQP9

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A Dot You Are

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A Dot You Are takes readers on a trip through the protagonist’s journey to rediscover his relationship with his long-lost father (and himself). What parts of himself are the results of his father’s actions when Antoni was just a child? Which parts were created through his own life choices and experiences? Our protagonist comes back to a long-lost world that is in direct juxtaposition from the one he was educated in and eventually realizes that he may not have ended up quite as far from his roots as he once thought.

For anyone who enjoys poetic storytelling full of imagery and metaphor, A Dot You Are, written by Manjula Wediwardana and then translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala, should certainly quench their thirst. The author does well to bring the reader into each of the compelling scenes throughout the story, but leaves plenty of room for the imagination to take over.

Antoni (protagonist) is on a mission to find his estranged father but has limited knowledge of where and how to find him. The village that he must go to on his search does, in fact, turn up the man he is looking for, but he finds many other things as well. Antoni’s journey back to the fishing village awakens certain aspects of his personality which then creates more questions than he had before. Duality is ever-present throughout the story which is a fact that serves Antoni’s role in the story well. He is an outsider with a deep connection to the village. Where there is divinity, there is also the mundane. Where there is warmth, there is also a sense of indifference and hostility. The author captures the nature of the world quite precisely while at the same accentuating the drama that makes it interesting and fun.

The beauty, the hardships, the simplicity, and complex human interactions all make up the experience of the fishing village. The examples of scenery that are described are so vivid that one can get a clear sense of the place. Having visited many fishing villages throughout Sri Lanka, I can say that the reader will finish this book with a deep understanding of what life for a Sri Lankan fisherman is like, what the village looks like, and how the daily activities of everyone unfold.

The atmosphere of A Dot You Are is aided by the language used throughout the story. Not only is there a heavy focus on a poetic approach focused on extracting beauty from everyday situations, but there are also phrases and manners of speech that can only be found throughout India and Sri Lanka. It is not overdone, however, and the reader can easily get a feel for the colourful personalities that make up the story. All in all, it is a magnificent read that has a bit of everything.

Translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala

The Watchers: The Blood Dagger: Volume 2

The Watchers: The Blood Dagger Series by [Hayes, Misty]

Corinth is not the man he used to be, and Larna is certainly not the woman she once was. Together, the two lifelong friends make a pair of opposites like no other. When Corinth finds himself with the dagger that inexplicably seems to grant him Sight, Larna begins to notice changes in Corinth that she isn’t sure she understands or likes. Larna, a newly-turned vampire and her best friend, Corinth, a Watcher, both feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding that has nothing to do with their mission to find and destroy Gabriel, the most vile of vampires. As they make their way through one life-threatening situation after another, Corinth and Larna tiptoe around more than one unspoken question in their relationship.

There are plenty of readers who will pick up The Watchers: The Blood Dagger #2 by Misty Hayes and proclaim it, at first glance, to be nothing more than a take on the story told in the Twilight series. Do NOT be fooled. Misty Hayes has taken the age-old vampire tale to a whole new level! She goes far beyond the Twilight-type plot and leaves it in the dust helplessly spinning its wheels. Once upon a time, I thought that entire series was the be-all end-all of vampire tales, but Misty Hayes’s Blood Dagger series is quickly bumping it from the coveted spot.

I had the pleasure of reading The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger #1 and was enamored from the get-go. Hayes is a master at character development, and nowhere is that more apparent than in her descriptions of Corinth and Larna and their self-talk. The second guessing and self-examination the two do throughout the text allow readers a firsthand look at their fears and their apprehension as well as their own amazement at their growing powers. Reading The Outcasts prior to reading The Watchers is not a must, but it is most certainly a plus when examining the growth the two main characters exhibit. Hayes does a phenomenal job of making this a stand-alone novel that serves to fire up readers’ desire to hear the full backstory of Corinth, Larna, and the feared Gabriel.

Hayes’s books are filled with humor. For as breathtakingly full of action as they are, they are equally as humorous. Hayes peppers her work with quips and one-liners, giving a fantastic depth to each of her characters. Readers will fall in love with Corinth and Larna if for nothing else than their ability to find humor in the most dire of circumstances.

Not to be overshadowed by the light hearted and whimsical, the dark and brooding element is definitely present in Hayes’s characters. In The Watchers, Corinth undergoes quite the transformation and is in the midst of examining his lineage, both of which are giving him pause. As Larna struggles to understand her friend’s trials, she cannot fully delve into his issues due to her own intense physical training and the division she feels between her love interest, Alastair, and Corinth himself.

Hayes writes romantic scenarios in the most tasteful and thoughtful ways. The Watchers: The Blood Dagger #2, though billed more as young adult fiction, appeals to fans of vampire tales as well as fantasies. Hayes’s work fits neatly into a variety of age ranges and genres beginning, but certainly not limited to, young adult.

Hayes’s work is, hands down, some of the most striking to hit shelves in the last decade. There are no characters out there like Corinth and Larna, and Hayes’s style of writing in alternating perspectives helps give rise to the inevitable success of The Blood Dagger series. I’m waiting with bated breath for book 3!

Pages: 515 | ASIN: B07KRHLT26

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Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days

Comrade Netai and the Chronology  of His UG Days : An Inside Story of Naxalite Movement from Nineties by [Sanjay Lahiri]

Activism is high on Netai’s list of priorities, or at least he thinks as much. As a member of the working class and a young man who is loyal and determined, Netai finds himself deep in the throes of the Naxalite during the decades of the eighties and nineties. While his involvement in the ever-increasing political movement increases, so does the tension within his parents’ household. His mother, afflicted with cataracts, struggles day in and day out while his hard-working father faces his own inner turmoil at being asked by his son to host the members of the resistance. Nowhere is the battle for emancipation so strongly felt as in Netai’s own household.

Sanjay Lahiri’s Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days traces Netai’s battle with his own participation in the resistance. As he goes about work in the mines, he is privy to a firsthand look at the suffering of the men and women employed there, the reality of back-breaking work, and the hardships of the working class. Lahiri paints painfully clear pictures of the desperation of the mine workers’ struggles in day-to-day living. The bulk of Lahiri’s effectiveness is nestled neatly in his main character’s own horror at the atrocities he witnesses. The author leaves nothing to the imagination as he describes the most shocking scenes of life as a mine worker. When Netai finds himself in awe of the scenes he witnesses, the reader is pulled along as an unwilling participant. Lahiri’s writing is vivid and exceptionally effective.

Details are Lahiri’s strong suit. On every level and in every way, Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days exists as a portrait of life in activism. A work of political fiction, Lahiri’s book provides a unique peek into the intense consideration given to decisions, elections, and organization of a revolution. Readers see the true rigors of rallying around a cause.

For me, nowhere was Netai’s struggle as clear as when it is pointed out to him that he has not had a change of underclothes and has exposed himself to infestation by chillars, insects growing in hay. Netai’s lack of hygiene is but one of the signs of the way in which his dedication to the cause is wreaking havoc on his psyche.

Lahiri’s key character, Netai, demonstrates an endearing eagerness despite the hardships he endures. He is an inspiring character filled with bright-eyed optimism and a strong desire to learn the ins and outs of the political processes involved in making change possible. As he is offered the opportunity to represent the state, his enthusiasm is positively contagious.

Comrade Netai features well-drawn characters and a relatable main character who wears his heart on his sleeve and exhibits humanitarianism along with a certain level of blind innocence. The subplot surrounding Netai’s parents is engaging and powerful. Comrade Netai is a must-read for any fan of political fiction and activists across causes and continents. Lahiri unites readers in a common bond–justice.

Pages: 506 | ASIN: B07JP3F1W6

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The Rebellious Earthling: Tale of the Turquoise Mirror

The Rebellious Earthling: Tale of The Turquoise Mirror by Andi Hayes completely caught me off guard. The title and opening pages led me to believe that the novel was going to be a run of the mill work of science fiction – creepy aliens, flat personalities, and clichés galore. But within a few chapters, I was completely hooked on Hayes’s story. I consider myself to be a pretty diverse reader, and I have read and reviewed a significant number of books, but this is the only one that had me staying up two hours past my bedtime to finish it. And, when I didn’t finish it that night, I was up in the morning reading it on the treadmill, suffering through the bounciness and struggles of reading while exercising, just to get to the end – I needed to know what happened!

Clearly, I think that The Rebellious Earthling is a five-star novel. Not only is it completely unique in its subject matter, story line, and characters, but it is also incredibly well-written and thoughtful. The Rebellious Earthling spans several distinct but related, and all equally fascinating, story lines. To give a high-level overview without revealing too much, it follows the demise of race of goblins who are corrupted by greed and lust after being overtaken by a new, cruel overlord. The other primary story line follows Ermina, the titular earthling, and her experiences in the depraved goblin world. Readers follow Ermina as she navigates this bizarre and debauched planet alongside Fairuzo, the handsome ruler of the goblins, whose dark history is hinted at throughout the pages. Hayes excels at managing the differing timelines yet tying them together seamlessly. Sometimes novels struggle in making different timelines understandable for readers, yet Hayes’ is skilled at making the current situation apparent yet not dumbed down.

I also enjoyed how Hayes tied together science fiction and romance, yet never in a tacky or lewd way. Though the lecherous and vile goblins as well as their overlords indulge in vile sexual acts, Hayes has a tactful way of describing these acts in a way that feels appropriately literary. As Hayes develops a romantic relationship between some key characters, I appreciated that the characters felt as if they truly got to know each other before progressing their relationship. The Rebellious Earthling is not a harlequin romance with pulsing clichés on every page, but there is a decent dose of enjoyable, indulgent amour. As a Game of Thrones fan, this felt slightly familiar – a little bit scandalous and addictive to read.

The 300 pages of The Rebellious Earthling fly by, as Hayes keeps the story action-packed yet never rushed. Hayes dedicates an appropriate level of detail to making all of the main and supporting characters three-dimensional and complex, and by the end I felt as if I knew these characters in an intimate way, and I pondered what I thought might happen in the conclusion as I drifted off to sleep. I could not get these characters out of my brain, in the best way possible! As I felt the pages winding down, I began rushing through the pages to get to the climax. And while Hayes left me hanging, I am hopeful that there will be more stories to come in the worlds of Ermina and Fairuzo.

Pages: 334 | ISBN: 0692132899

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Soul Born

Soul Born by [Breaux, Kevin]

A young and powerful mage named Opal is tasked with creating a weapon to save her kind and land from an evil warlord, Mustaffa. She has created the weapon in the form of a new warrior named Karn. Going against her teachers plans however, Opal creates a bond with Karn that connects them psychologically. Together they set out to try and find help to defeat Mustaffa. Both are captured however and there they meet many more enslaved and captured by the warlord. The devastation and destruction he caused is immense. What Opal soon learns is that things are not as they seem with her teachers and the elders. She uncovers dark truths that shatter everything she was led to believe. Meanwhile Karn starts meeting other people that also have a different view of the world and plans to change the destructive course their land is headed for.

Kevin Breaux has created another amazing fantasy novel with Soul Born. The enchanting mix of mage, human, elves, giants, jackalware, and all the rest of the fantasy creatures contained among the pages creates an engaging story that never gets old. From the opening pages we meet Tala the elf as she races for her life, about to die and is saved by stronger being that the reader is left wondering who or what it is. Readers are than transported to the story of Karn and Opal. There connection is magical, but you can tell Opal really loves him. This love allows her to see past the strategic value he holds to the High Council. The lies she had been fed all her life start to unwind and as she learns the truth of her magic and her people.

This novel is the kind of book that makes you think, it is not a quick fluff read, and the twists and turns of the plot will take you by surprise. There are so many moving parts in the political maneuvering and each group of beings have their own agenda. While they all wish to stop Mustaffa from destroying the land, they all have different reasons and come to the battle from different directions. The characters are very well developed, and I love how you have to read deep into the novel to really find the depth of their personalities. The characters start off flat, but with each chapter you learn something new that adds another layer to them and the plot.

Soul Born is a story about awakening both of one’s self, and the land that the characters inhabit. Breaux is able to twist all their lives together while still giving them each a voice and purpose. Characters are not used as simple filler, they advance the story along or are used to teach one of the main characters something about themselves. Nothing is by chance and each detail, while perhaps unimportant when you read it, will become clearly important down the line as you progress. A well written and original work that is captivating and one you won’t want to put down.

Pages: 370 | ASIN: B07K1XLPP6

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